Social worker vacancy rate falls slightly

Efforts by local authorities to train more social workers has
only resulted in a 1.5 per cent fall in the vacancy rate, the
latest figures from the Social Care and Health Workforce Group has
shown, writes Natasha Salari.

The amount of spending by councils on training social workers
has risen by 159 per cent from £4.2 million to £11
million, allowing the numbers studying to rise by 68 per cent and
the numbers qualifying to more than double.

But even though the average vacancy rate has fallen from 9.9 per
cent to 8.4 per cent between 2001 and 2002, children’s social
worker vacancies rose from 11.3 per cent to 12.6 per cent.

Bill McKitterick, chairperson of the Association of Directors of
Social Services’ human resources and training committee, welcomed
the drop in the vacancy rate, but believes that it is too
“early” to tell if the new social work degree, which
replaced the 14-year-old Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) this year,
will have an impact on recruitment.

He said: “This is good news, but it’s a turn in the
right direction rather than a solution to the problem. We have to
turn the 1.5 per cent into something much higher. We have high
aspirations that the new degree course will attract people who are
committed both to higher education and gaining a professional

“It’s too early to say that it (degree course) will
have a substantial effect on recruitment of social workers, but it
will have a very positive effect on the kinds of people we are
trying to attract. What has to go alongside is a robust continuing
professional development,” he said.

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